Friday, February 20, 2009

NAPO TO BABAG TALES X: The No-Santol-Tree Trail

THE URGE TO SHED off the extra poundage I have accumulated in the short span of November 29, 2008 to January 3, 2009 pushed me to go backpacking again to the trails of Mount Babag on January 4. The food prepared on the eve of New Year's Day and after, I have eaten to my heart's delight like there was no tomorrow, were now taking its toll. Besides, I need to sweat out those firecracker smokes which I inadvertently inhaled when I drove a motorcycle around the city streets on New Year which caused me to get sick for three days!

Actually, it was already on my schedule after an impromptu meeting that I have with Boy Toledo, Sam Lim, Ernie Salomon, Glenn Domingo, Ben Lao and Jecris Dayondon on December 28 first, near Boy T's office in Gorordo Avenue, then at Calda Pizza in Salinas Drive in Lahug. Boy T, Sam, Ernie and me just came from Mt. Babag on that day.

So, on this Sunday morning I went directly to our meeting place at the back of the Virgen de Guadalupe Church. Andrew and Bong of ONE Cebu passed by with their guests from eTelecare to go to Mt. Babag via the Kahugan Trail. Later, Ernie then Sam arrived and we left at 8:00 AM for Napo in Guadalupe to meet with Manwel Roble, our boy-guide. Sadly, Boy T and Jecris declined to join us at the last minute and so have missed that early opportunity to sweat out 2008 from their body system.

At the first stopping area we overtook the group of ONE Cebu resting under a big mango tree. We rested as well there and exchanged pleasantries with them and we all decided to go to the second river crossing together afterwards. Two guys from MONC arrived at the river crossing then we split up, with my group going the hard and difficult Ernie's Trail. Together with Manwel, we climbed our usual route with so much enthusiasm and glee wherein I recorded some videos.

We arrived at Manwel's place at 9:45 AM and I brought out my usual present of bread for his siblings and I noticed that they constructed two new bamboo benches under the shade of a mango tree which were not there last week. I took pictures of the children there. It was so cool and relaxing sitting on the bench as the soothing mountain breeze lulled us to drowsiness but we have go on as we have to take an early lunch at Babag Ridge and so we said goodbye to the kids. We have a long way to go to find a trail for Kalunasan.

The three of us then went down the third river crossing and started the most difficult trail in this area. I huffed and puffed as I lurched forward slowly up the trail and it was quite surprising that I got winded of my effort despite my constant visits here almost weekly. I blamed it on the fast pace we made or maybe the fasting I made for the first Friday and Saturday of the year took its effect. We have made this area our training ground and we're glad to tackle this trail in whatever opportunity we could find.

We did reach Mt. Babag at 11:00 AM and took lunch at a store three hundred meters ahead. We rested for a full two hours as the MONC guys passed by and we followed them along the road to Garaje in Busay. Just beyond Babag Crest Mountain Resort, we separated from them and went down a trail that we passed by last week to look for a route that would connect us to Kalunasan. We were unsuccessful at that time, but this time, with me leading and navigating, we were able to break through to Kalunasan road at 2:45 PM.

There were many trails that led back to the river crossing that we passed by hours ago (just like last week) and they were easy to follow. And there are some trails that lead to dead ends and there are other routes that might go to an unknown destination. Without a map and a compass, it is a difficult predicament. However, I used my long experience as a solo trekker and I read and analyzed the contour of the terrain and discarded the useless hours of testing each trail. I followed my trailcraft sense until we reached the road in a time of less than two hours.

Sam suggested that the trail be named after me with which notion I quickly dispelled and name it instead as “No-Santol-Tree Trail” in reference to a a santol tree which is used as a landmark by the locals in going to Kalunasan as told to us by a local resident. We looked for that tree, but we found none, so the idea of naming this trail fell on that circumstance. There was not one santol tree on the place we passed by and we joked that the tree might have already been sold as charcoal.

Walking for about an hour downward for Kalunasan proper we finally reached the junction that led straight to the Guadalupe parish. At exactly 4:00 PM, Ernie and I sat on the pews of the church and attended the first Sunday Mass of 2009. It was a perfect Sunday all rolled into one with the most perfect weather. A time of a day well spent.

Happy Free-Walking Day!!!

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


SINULOG DAY – the feast of all feasts of Cebu City – is celebrated every third Sunday of January of each year. The feast starts nine days before the big celebration and several events are lined up to honor the Holy Child Jesus or the Señor Santo Niño and every pilgrim worth his salt starts to seep into the streets of Cebu City to renew his vows and to ask blessings from the Holy Child.

There are two big events that are reserved to culminate the Sinulog Week: the Grand Solemn Procession on a Saturday and the Grand Mardi Gras and Street Parade on the Sunday.

I took a half-day from work on January 17, 2009 to participate in the former. I went first to a luncheon meet with the Cebu Bloggers Society in CnT Lechon Restaurant infront of SM City for an eyeball session. After that I warped-sped my way to Sunburst Restaurant in Legaspi Street to meet with my group from the Cebu Mountaineering Society (CeMS). Already there were Daddy Frank Cabigon, Nonoy Edillor and Dennis Legaspi. Later, Dr. Abe Manlawe and Jecris Dayondon came.

We have made this as our club tradition to start our official mountaineering activities for the whole year by joining the solemn procession which starts at 1:30 PM from the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño then winding its way through the streets of the downtown area. Along the way, Jon Consunji joined us at Magallanes Street and Andru Flores at P. del Rosario Street. Although the procession route is five kilometers long, I developed muscle pains afterward.

Doc parted ways with us at the vicinity of the City Central School while Daddy Frank, Nonoy, Dennis and Jecris at the junction of Sikatuna and Imus streets. The route passed by near my home in M.J. Cuenco Avenue and there were many many acquaintances and friends and neighbors who stood by at the sidewalks to wave their hands each time the chorus of the Santo Niño song was sung. I exchanged smiles and nods with them.

It was my third time to join this event and it was my first time to trot beside the carro carrying the Blessed Virgin Mary as it overtook us nearby the finishing route in the vicinity of the Santo Niño church. I plucked flowers from the carro enjoined by the pleading crowd and gave it to them. The carro stopped just infront of the arched gate of the basilica in time for me to hear the anticipated Mass at five past the Angelus – another first for me.

I bade Jon after the mass and went on my way for home bringing a single white flower which my grandson smelled with gusto! I slept early with a light disposition happy to have participated this sacred activity after weeks of anticipation and looked forward for the morrow would be well and perfect.

On Sunday, January 18, after a hearty breakfast, I left for Osmeña Boulevard to visit the booth put up by CeMS. The streets were already full of people, participants and visitors and the street parade was already in progress. Cordons of rope held by a line of volunteers kept the onlookers away from mingling with the contingents. I was in the south side of the line and my destination was located on the northern part.

I looked for a loophole as I walked down the route and back until I saw a slight break along the line in the middle of the former rotunda infront of the Land Bank of the Philippines and followed those who were now crossing on the other side. I took the opportunity and I made it to the booth. Already manning the table were Boy Olmedo, the present CeMS president, and Jon. Assisting them were Daddy Frank, Lilibeth Initan, Nonoy and Boy Toledo.

Later, Julienne Rosales, Brian Gera, Grace Ventic, Joel Cariño of USC-M and Eugene Abarquez of CAMP arrived giving us company. I skipped lunch and I left at around 3:00 PM hoping to see more of the Sinulog street parade and take candid shots of people.

Up ahead I espied two banners which were quite familiar to me. Approaching the place, I discovered the Omega Pelta Kappa, my fraternity during my college years, were setting up a booth. You know what, I have looked forward to rub elbows again with my fraternity brothers and sisters a long time ago but it never materialized due to my shyness and this is the perfect opportunity to touch base again with them.

The presence of Rey Caaway, my former neighbor, goaded me instead to forget all awkwardness that have refrained me to join past events and now boosted my confidence altogether as I shook hands again with them – the Peltan way! Over endless glasses of beer, we reminisced the storied past of OPK and its future. We gloat our present “unity” over the establishment of the community site in and hoped that it will snowball OPK into a throbbing and vibrant fraternity it once had in the late '70s and early '80s.

Reminiscing back, it was in 1981 that I was initiated, in pioneering style, into the OPK and I have developed a common bond with them. It was this bond that made me linger a long time until almost the last of the contingents of the Sinulog grand parade made its pass.

After dusk, my wife's relatives arrived, a whole army of them, led by Sicpao barangay chairman Dandan Apale of Mahayag, Zamboanga del Sur. One of them, holding a replica of the Holy Child danced and gyrated, facing me, tossing his hands up and down, his object of adoration directed to this writer placing the passing crowd's and my fraternity's gaze towards me. I could only show a sheepish smile as my frat brods got shell-shocked of this “unusual” development before them.

Fully loaded with beer in my belly, I made it home, thankful that I have attended and witnessed the activities of the most important weekend of January in this part of the world. Meanwhile, my wife and my sons were waiting for me for our dinner and I ate with great relish the preparations for this fiesta – humba, sinugba'ng isda and kinilaw – with visiting relatives and friends. Afterwards, I gazed at the balcony to witness the fireworks display that culminate the Sinulog Festival.

Viva Pit Señor!!!

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1

Sunday, February 1, 2009

LED BY CHARITY: Climbing for Manwel Roble


FOR THE LAST few months or so of 2008, my activities and those of Boy Toledo's and Ernie Salomon's would revolve between Guadalupe and Mt. Babag and back. It was by chance that Ernie brought Boy T and me to this particular trail and I kind of liked it the first time I tread my hike shoes there. Boy T felt the same way. That was on August 17.
This trail is different from all the other trails that criss-crossed Metro Cebu's backyard for it is quite difficult and the ascent is compounded by steep trails of 65-70 degree inclines. This trail is a perfect area for training and is sooooo accessible. Along this trail is a lone house that sits on a hill that is in the middle of the route to Mt. Babag. In there, we find good company with a boy named Manwel who volunteered to guide us and shared his knowledge of the trail.
We climbed there twice in September and we decided, the three of us, to give Manwel a guide fee each time we climb the Babag Mountain Range. A good start to nurture a future trail guide and a chance to help out a poor kid to earn an income to help in his studies and his family. “Teach Pedro how to fish” is the best term for it. Likewise, in October we passed by that trail twice, which I now call Ernie's Trail, in reference to my good friend Ernie (Of course, who else?).
On November 16, I went up on a day trek with Dr. Abe Manlawe, Boy T and Ernie to Mt. Babag again. I brought Manwel four used textbooks and a pair of shoes which my son have outgrown and bread for his family. Doc Abe, Boy T and Ernie opened packs of chocolate crackers for Manwel and his younger sister and brother while Manwel's father climbed a coconut tree to provide us water and meat from young coconuts as his token of appreciation towards us.
Later, during lunch at Babag Ridge, Doc treated Manwel with spaghetti and sandwiches while I provided a 12-ounce Coke for him. They're just small things that matter to a boy like Manwel. Lasting impressions that would carve in a kid's heart that we mountaineers care not just the environment but the people living therein. Lasting impressions for a mountain-bred boy like Manwel that there are still people who cared.
On another trek on November 29, Boy T, Doc Abe, Ernie, Boy Olmedo, Glenn Lao and guests from – Vince, Dusty and Wally – went with me to Mt. Babag. It was an official climb of the Cebu Mountaineering Society. We passed by Manwel's house and we brought them bundles of joy. Doc, inspired by my act of generosity last time around, brought many old textbooks, some used clothings of his now U.S.-based sons and a lot of snacks.
I carried my own bundles of joy, some of it thru the courtesy of Tata Caumeran. I bought them bread and a kilo of brown sugar. We ate our lunch outside their place. Again, as was before, Manwel's father provided another set of young coconuts to supplement our packed lunch which we consumed appreciatively.
After that, we proceeded towards Mt. Babag and we rendezvoused with Ben Lao who carried with him his guitar and harmonica and our tired bodies were swept away with new vigor as Ben serenaded us. Altogether, we set up camp on an unnamed peak where it afforded a 360-degree view of Metro Cebu and the Bonbon River Valley. The peak, located just a couple of hundred meters from Mt. Babag, have not seen the stake of a tent yet and is virgin ground for campers. We jokingly named the campsite “Manwel's Peak” and we stayed there overnight.
Manwel and his cousin, Santi, sourced drinking water and two live native chicken for our supper and we paid cash for those. We cooked the fowls, barbecue style, on an open fire stroked to life by Ernie and me. We ate voraciously during the “boodle-fight” session using abaca leaves as our plates and all felt nourished and full to the brim. The air from up there was very clear and the city lights were a sight to behold.
We left Manwel and Santi with two kilos of rice, canned goods and lots of biscuit after we left in the morning of November 30.
Feeling restless for two weeks, Doc, Boy T, Sam Lim, Glenn Domingo, Ernie and me finally found the chance to climb again on December 14 and embark on another mercy mission. Coming with us were Vince of, Aldinson, Lisa, Andrew and Jim of O.N.E. Cebu, an outdoor club. Tailing along with us with a leash is “Shadow”, a Siberian Husky! It was a strange crowd but with the same giving heart.
As agreed, we spent our lunch at Manwel's place. Vince, Aldinson, Lisa, Andrew and Jim brought out and donated their stuffs like backpacks, old textbooks, used clothes and shoes and foodstuffs. A hard-bound four-volume “High School Self-Taught Books” were part of the package given away by the kind-hearted Aldinson to Manwel. Glenn D, not to be outdone, gave away used clothes and some slightly-used and new toys while Doc, Ernie and Boy T shared food to the children.
I brought two kilos of rice, a pack of chocolate drink and bread to Manwel's family. We were playing Santa there and surprised them with our gifts. It fattened our hearts to extreme proportions seeing tears of joy coming from Manwel's mother as the children found themselves giggling and laughing their hearts out to enjoy this occasion. They exchanged those with another set of young coconuts and “Shadow” loved the coco meat and water so much and found himself competing eating space with us.
Closing the year with a climb, we went back to Mt. Babag on December 28. Boy T, Sam, Ernie and I were joined by Nathan Cannen and Myla Ipil of Kompas Lakaw Mountaineers. It was a good time to shed away the “party fats” which we have accumulated during the Christmas season. We took each step earnestly knowing that the load we carried uphill will be lightened. We passed by an upland community and I left five used textbooks there to the delight of the children. Seeing them so amused I shared two of my three chocolate bars with them.

Climbing on, we reached Manwel's house at last and glad to shed off the post-Christmas gifts we brought to Manwel and his family. Ernie, Sam and I unveiled our packs to reveal a hoard of used clothings. I also brought them and gave away a dozen chorizo, bread, two kilos of rice and an old Coleman 4-liter jug filled with ice-cold orange juice which I prepared especially for them. We ate lunch there and we were treated again by Manwel's father with a bunch of young coconuts.

As you noticed, all my climbs are confined within the Guadalupe-Babag area and I wouldn't trade it for another spectacular climb. If you find our climb boring and monotonous, that's your opinion. I see Ernie's Trail as a chance to exercise and breathe fresh mountain air regularly which most of you could do only once a month, at the most. I don't have to spend a lot of money and time to go to another place or buy expensive specialized gears. I just divert my spending to help other people instead and at the same time enjoy my hobby and get lots of sunshine. I have blazed a new trail which, in this lifetime, I have not seen yet. It is already prepared UP there.

God bless all mountaineers...practice charity!

Document done in OpenOffice Writer.